Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Chico & Sierra Nevada

Displaying IMG_20140524_124522_177.jpgOver Memorial Day, I made a pilgrimage to Chico and the Sierra Nevada Brewery. Sierra Nevada has been my favorite beer for as long as I can remember - so it was time to visit the source. The trip was a lot of fun, as most of my road trips north of California have been. It was also very hot - Chico is 4 hours north of the Bay Area and just off the 5 freeway, located in the central part of the state. It’s a college town with an alternative feel, a mix of vibes from LA and crunchy Bay Area.

Due to our late departure from Los Gatos, we missed our sustainability tour at the brewery. Instead we went to Sierra Nevada’s restaurant. They had 19 beers for us to try, and we tried all 19! From our tasting, it was apparent that Sierra Nevada is looking to expand beyond its hoppy roots into lighter beers. Unfortunately, I didn’t like most of their new selection of beers – I prefer the crispness of their original, hoppy varieties. The hops come from the Cascade Mountain Range. We also ordered pretzels and mustard (Sierra Nevada makes and sells their own mustard based on their beer flavors). This, I absolutely loved. I bought souvenirs and samples galore for friends, family, and co-workers: a pint glass featuring the Ruthless Rye label (a brilliant and sinister label, the best in the business), a 4-pack of Ovila, a beer made through a collaboration of Sierra Nevada and the monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, CA (just north of Chico of the 99), and a “Growler” of Belgian white beer. A growler is an oddly shaped container that fits about 4 pints of beer.

Outside of the Sierra Nevada brewery, Chico is a small but fun college town with unique bars and restaurants, including Banshee and Madison “Bear” Garden. No matter where you go in Chico, Sierra Nevada will always be on tap. We met a lot of students, some still studying (with many stops and starts), and some who have graduated and are figuring out what to do next. Chico is a free-spirited city with free-spirited people. It’s surprisingly green, despite being so far inland. It would be more fun to come back to this city in the winter when there is more rain, and perhaps go inner tubing down the American River.Then, I can try more of Sierra Nevada's winter specialties...yum!

Sunday, June 1, 2014


After two long years where my only travel was domestic, mostly through work, I made my first trip out of the US a few months ago when I spent 5 days in Panama. It was great to be able to dust off my passport and travel again.

I traveled to Panama with Neilesh, my old faithful travel companion. He and I hadn’t travelled together since Morocco – which was 4 years ago – so it was good to venture out again. I spent a few days in Bocas del Toro by myself before joining Neilesh in Panama City. Bocas Del Toro is set of islands on the border of Panama and Costa Rica. It’s paradise – just like the name of the scuba diving shop, La Buga. While in Bocas, I surfed a little on a remote beach, did 2 scuba dives, and generally walked around the town. Despite not having scuba dove in several years, I was able to remember the basics pretty easily. Plus, the dive masters are still impressed when they see my Rescue Diver card. I also visited Aqua Lounge which is a bumping nightclub with places to jump in the water in swim. 

Panama City was a next on the itinerary. It’s nice but expensive (and they accept the dollar). My last visit to Central America was 11 years ago when I went to Costa Rica. Compared to that trip, a lot of development seems to have taken place.  We mostly hung out in the casino except for some brief sightseeing in the capital, which included the Panama Canal. Fortunately, we arrived at a time when we could see two ships passing through. 

Panama was a good, quick, fun trip after 2 years of staying stateside. I’ve now been to two countries in Central America – time to turn my focus beyond Latin America for my next trip. Is Europe calling?
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